Archives for the month of: January, 2014

Heaphy Pack Tracking

We’re leaving for the Heaphy Track tomorrow morning! My first Great Walk in New Zealand! Woo hoo! I’m getting really excited! I don’t exactly know what to expect, but I suppose I won’t be wondering for much longer. I’m not so much worried about the physical aspects: the fact that my first proper tramping experience will be the longest of the nine Great Walks, the fact that we will be completing it in the shortest amount of time, or the fact that our first day will be a 5 hour climb exclusively uphill while carrying all of our essentials on our backs. But instead, my biggest fear is running out of food. We will be completely isolated from civilization for four days and three nights, and will have to be self-sufficient with our cooking. While the huts we will be camping in will have gas burners, we have to be prepared for anything.

My 29 year old Belgium roommate, Katharina, and I carefully planned our menu which will consist of the following: oatmeal with peanut butter pita bread for breakfast, salami and cheese sandwiches for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner. Tramping with any kind of pasta sauce can get heavy and bulky, so just to be creative, we packed instant tomato soup for extra flavor. Instant soup. Instant soup that comes from a powder. That’s our substitute for a proper tomato sauce. I really hope my Italian grandmother doesn’t find this completely sacrilegious. In theory it sounds like it might work, but personally I think this is going to be our biggest disaster. I am already a little bit worried for dinner time….

Our 18 year old German friend, Cornelius, probably thought that our adventure was going to be too funny not to miss, so he decided at the last minute to join us. I think he made a very wise decision. I am curious to see what he will pack for food though. He has been solely living off of rice and the native kamo kamo, which is essentially a zucchini on steroids. And by steroids, I literally mean it. A kamo kamo is about the size of an elongated pumpkin. If he is sensible about this, he could just pack one kamo kamo and would be set for all twelve meals, and still have some leftover for snack time.

Regardless, we are all super pumped for our journey! Don’t worry about us though. We will be totally safe. And if all else fails, Katharina is a doctor. What could go wrong?

New Pictures!

I spent the better part of this chilly overcast day uploading the rest of my pictures to my Snap Fish account. (The internet speed here really leaves a lot to be desired.) Just click “New Pictures!” and you should be directed to my online photo albums. Please let me know if it does not work. Enjoy!

Ich habe eine streichholzschachtel in meiner rechten tasche!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Come to New Zealand. Learn German. You would be amazed at how many Germans are here. Someone gave me a figure like 70,000 Germans travel to New Zealand annually. There are only 4 million Kiwis that live here. Whether or not that backpacker statistic is true, I would totally believe it. And the crazy thing about it is that even more of them go to Australia.

The other night, I was pretty sure I was the only native English speaker staying here aside from Chris and Liz. I made friends with a guy from Sweden and I kicked his butt in Scrabble. It was pretty unfair, but he held his own really well. My German roommate taught me how to play chess. In the back of my mind, that scene from Harry Potter where they become the real life pieces kept playing in my head. All distractions aside though, it was fun trying to translate the little man pieces, especially since I didn’t even know what they are called in English to begin with. Our match turned into a massive game of two versus four, a sight most unusual for any conventional player. I am going to challenge him one on one tonight, so please wish me luck.

Oh, and I have exciting news! Katharina and I made arrangements today to hike the Heaphy Track starting the first of February! It will be my first of the nine NZ Great Walks. 3 nights, 4 days and 78.5 kilometers through the Kahurangi National Park. I agreed to go part on impulse, so I am mildly terrified but mainly excited. I have no idea what to expect, and hopefully we are well enough prepared. If not, it might be a little while before I get to update my blog again…

PS: I said “I have a matchbox in my right pocket!” It is both a completely false statement as well as a completely useless foreign phrase.

What does the dog say?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Woof! Or WWOOF-ing is a term frequently used when long term backpacking. It stands for “willing workers on organic farms,” and is not only a good way to save money on a place to stay, but creates a connection between you and your resident hosts. Typically, volunteers help with daily farming chores, but WWOOF-ing can also refer to working for free accommodation at backpackers or hostels in exchange for 2-3 hours of cleaning.

On Friday, I “moved” to Riwaka, a small “town” about 4 km outside Motueka, to work for accommodation at this beautiful backpackers called Eden’s Edge. I came back because I fell in love with the scenery and absolutely enjoyed the owners, Chris and Liz. There are mountains nearby and apple orchards all around, so I would consider this country living, something I have never truly experience before. I am about a 5 minute drive, a 15 minute bike ride or a 45 minute walk away from town. It’s been great to just sit and be and soak in the surroundings.

It’s been pretty easy going since my return, and I have really enjoyed hanging out and catching up. I got to meet up with Victoria and Megan again. After our Friday night Mexican fiesta feast, they treated me to a British experience known as “The Full Monty.” I had no idea what that movie was about, and I think going into it blindly was the best. No better way to enjoy that film than with two girls from Northern England.

On Sunday, my Belgium roommate Katharina and I ventured into town for the Motueka Sunday market. The farmer’s markets in New Zealand rock. They are always full of more than just the local produce, but also feature jewelry, clothes, local beer, loads of food truck selections and define a great sense of community.

This afternoon, a few of us were talking in the kitchen when all of a sudden the cutlery started to jingle. I put my hands on the countertops, and I definitely felt a rocking like I was being shaken on a boat or something. It lasted for quite a long time, and we figured it had to have been an earthquake. Seeing as New Zealand lies on numerous fault lines, earthquakes are a daily part of life here. They experience thousands of earthquakes a year. Many are so minor you cannot notice them, but we felt this one centered all the way in the North Island which is a three hour ferry ride away. The Wairarapa area, about 1 hour outside Wellington, endured this six point something earthquake and didn’t fare as well as the capital according to my friend who lives in Welly. Coming from Virginia where relatively predictable hurricanes are our most severe natural disasters, it can be pretty terrifying to have to adjust to life with unpredictable earthquakes. It’s a trade off you have to make to enjoy such a picturesque country though.

Maps

Victoria told me about a nifty new site. For anyone who has yet to figure out exactly where I am and have been, attached is the link to a map that has my travels thus far drawn out! To keep things relatively simple, I just pinned the places where I have spent the night. Emily and I did some damage on our multiple road trips. (Hint: Click the word “Maps” to see my whereabouts!)

Lord of the Big Gold Ring

A local jeweler here, Jens Hansen, is home to the original ring in the Lord of the Rings. Not that I care anything about the movies, but it was cool to check it out nonetheless. That sucker was huge, too. I think the guy told me it was like 8 inches in diameter. It’s made out of steel with gold plating on the outside and super heavy. So if you ever wondered, the infamous ring is real and it’s not just a piece of costume jewelry.

X Marks the Spot

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I hiked up a very steep path this afternoon to make it to the centre of New Zealand. The site offered a great view overlooking the entire city with the Tasman Bay in the background. Here I am at the top!

Domestic Day

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I consider Nelson a very livable city, so this is the perfect place to get errand-type things done before I leave for Motueka on Friday to work for accommodation at Eden’s Edge. And by errand-type things, I really just mean shopping. I haven’t gone shopping once since I’ve been here, and it was so great to try on pretty new clothes to remind myself that I can still look like a girl. (If you can’t tell from my pictures, I have literally been wearing the same four outfits since I left home.) I think the Kiwis have a cute sense of style, and as if my accent doesn’t give it away, my backpacker fashion definitely proves that I am not a local.

People here tend to talk about the cinema quite a bit, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I arrived about a half hour before the Hunger Games 2 was scheduled to start, which I thought was plenty of time to get my ticket and some popcorn (especially since the movie has been out for ages now), and to my horror the theatre was completely and utterly packed! The girls behind me assumed it was because kids were on summer holiday and it was discounted ticket night, but whatever the reason, my movie sold out before I could get a ticket. The gentleman behind the ticket counter kindly suggested I see Wolf on Wall Street instead as he had one last seat available, so I took it.

I couldn’t believe that something so simple as going to the movies would feel like such a foreign experience. The cinemas normally only have two showings per day per movie, and they have assigned seating here. I could venture to guess that there wasn’t an empty seat in the any of their theatres. There were no signs or advertisements asking the audience to silence their cell phones, and people actually sat still and behaved like they should throughout the entire film. It was quite pleasant to say the least. As far as the movie itself, Leo was excellent. The film was extremely American, and it made me feel a little nostalgic because I have no doubt out of everyone in the theatre, I could relate to every portrayal more than anyone else.

For the picture of the day, I decided to post one of Tahunanui Beach from when Victoria, Megan and I were there the other day.

A Proper Picnic

I finally arrived in Nelson on Friday, my final destination in the South Island until Mom comes to visit me in March. I have pretty much been on the move for about the past 9 solid weeks now, and I haven’t scheduled myself enough “sit still and do nothing” days. So needless to say, I am a little bit tired and very much looking forward to staying put for the next 6 or so weeks. Nelson is the sunniest place in New Zealand, so the weather here is making me perfectly content. There are also nearby beaches, so I can’t complain one bit. Nelson is quite livable in my opinion, and I can’t wait to leisurely investigate the city and surrounding areas.

I made the mistake of booking into Paradiso for an entire week, and couldn’t get a refund on my reservation fast enough. My Lonely Planet travel book very accurately describes this place as “Club Med for the impoverished” and they tried to warn me, but I just didn’t listen. After two sleepless nights in this massive party place, I was fortunate enough to find a very clean and quaint backpackers up the road who could take me in. Prince Albert’s is everything Paradiso is not, and I am so thankful for that.

During my time at “Club Med,” I made friends with two very lovely British girls, Victoria and Megan. I kind of feel like I’m cheating on Emily, but she’s still in Queenstown, so there’s just nothing I can do about that. Victoria, Megan and I got to hit Tahunanui Beach yesterday, and I did not mind one bit getting a wee sunburn in the middle of January. Today the three of us spent the entire afternoon picnicking outside the Melrose House and feasting of fresh fruits and veggies from Countdown, the local grocery store. It was exactly the kind of relaxing couple of days I needed to regain a bit of motivation. Here is a picture of Victoria, me and Megan in about the tackiest club you could ever imigine. It was utterly magical.

Supermassive Black Hole

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It was my last full day with my oh, so luxurious rental car. I drove to Totaranui Beach, the northernmost beach in the Abel Tasman National park and spend the afternoon strolling up and down the vibrantly tan colored coastline. I was surprised to find blue and black starfishes washed to shore among other exotic sea shells. On my way back to Eden’s Edge for the night, I decided to detour off the main road and explore the Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve, one of the many filming locations for Lord of the Rings. I specifically made the effort to drive down the narrow unsealed 11k road to take a few pictures and send them to my friend Slightly from back home. He told me if I didn’t visit anything Lord of the Rings while I was in New Zealand that we would no longer be friends when I got home. Friend, I went to great lengthy to salvage our relationship. You’re welcome.

Harwood’s Hole is the main feature in this area, so I ventured down the 90 minute return trail to see what the big fuss was about. It wasn’t so much a planned walking trail, but rather an open beech forest followed by a jumbled up pile of rocks; large slippery rocks lodged in between lots and lots of mud. And I didn’t so much walk, but more like clambered over these miniature boulders to reach New Zealand’s deepest hole. It had been raining off and on all day, so it made the moss come to life and added a certain kind of eeriness to the whole setting. The birds even sounded slightly paranormal as they didn’t sing like cheery doorbells, but rather resembled something like that of a bat. What I saw of Harwood’s Hole was quite impressive, but it’s pretty hard to get a good, close look without literally killing yourself. There are no barriers in the entire section, so exploring is at your own risk. And since I am here to tell the story, I did not get a good look. This is the best picture I could get, and like the vast majority of my pictures, it doesn’t even begin to do it justice. Maybe this is one of the sites that is best Googled.